Released: 2012, Agonia Records
Reviewer: Metal-Rules.com UK Team
Lurching into existence, ‘Obsidium’ opens with what may very possibly be one of the most welcome & relevant transitions between intro & album track since Immortal’s ‘Blizzard Beasts’, kicking the door open with some actually very meaty, bass-heavy production that perfectly complements the album’s scant smatterings of punkish angst.
Setting the format from an early point, Enthroned make it abundantly clear that they’re entirely un-phased by influences outside of the typical brutal black metal vein, slinging some refreshingly genuine shouted vocals that bring heartfelt desperation & humanity to some absolutely corking standalone melodic riffs that surpass the scene’s predilection towards dissonant warp speed strumming. Other attempts at further diversifying their approach come into view at choice moments throughout, though one can only hope that this may pave the way for some greater confidence in clean vocals for further albums – such great potential there, but such understated positioning in the mix!
Nicely played morphic, almost fretless bends between notes for guitars can be found in one of the more melodic tunes ‘Nonus Sacramentum’, interspersing fittingly placed shifts in gear that allow time to consider the bleak & wretched atmospheres playing out before you.
Such a rare gem, it’s honestly so pleasing to hear decent annunciation accompanying such brutality, and given that these Belgians must (I assume?) be singing in English as a second language they provide a lesson that many other bands would do well to learn from. However, for all vocalist’s Nornaget’s evident bile & emotional connection with the music, it just can’t detract from the fact that a plod-a-thon is a plod-a-thon no matter how dark the blackness may be, being especially evident in ‘Horns Aflame’.
The use of tonal difference by Enthroned’s guitarists is refreshing & excellently thought out; it’s very clear that they know how best to create atmospheres that push, and correspondingly pull back as fits the moment – a virtue sorely lacking from so many younger acts. Special mention must surely be made to the band themselves seemingly to have managed the majority of their own production (no mean feat, regardless of the genre).
‘Oblivious Shades’ presents a surprisingly fascinating coda between the album’s most brutal moments and its more pastoral reflections. Opening with a subtle & extremely well composed moment of synth ambience, the band risk treading again through the risky mire of low BPM black metal and this time find themselves toeing a surprisingly picturesque path before returning the album’s prevalent character briefly to remind you of their high speed prowess.
With bands such as Portal & Blut Aus Nord setting new benchmarks in atmosphere and painting the thematic vignette before even lyrics can be considered, Enthroned now proudly hold their own in employing subtle keyboards & open chords, deftly invoking pestilent & disease-ridden atmospheres that swiftly transport the listener away from any considerations of studio details and mundanity.
For all the huge chords & spiteful yelling that makes the latter half of ‘The Final Architect’ such a fantastic highlight to the album, it’s sadly marred its frenetic & chaotic lead work being placed criminally low in the mix.
Hats off to the band for providing some extremely welcome melody from the onset with ‘Oracle ov Void’, prefacing some mind-bending blasting accompanied by some class lead guitar that (again!) seems just that little bit too low in the mix to appreciate fully.
In closing the album, ‘Thy Blight Vacuum’ regrettably stands as the least strong tune of the whole piece, brought down by a somewhat predictable use of ecclesiastic spoken word posturing. The actually very interesting attempt at increasing the tempo gradually on a drumbeat that speeds from a doomish sludge into a fully fledged blast (and later, back down again) unfortunately only becomes apparent once it’s heard in full, instead running the risk of suggesting that the band is in fact playing quite badly out of time.
As a complete piece, ‘Obsidium’s hidden gems are the guitar & synth work, subtly pulling the album out of the territory of meat-and-two-veg black metal and into the realm of the more cerebral, atmosphere-conscious modern extreme metal which blissfully never descends into Hammer Horror pantomime. A fantastic addition to a well established band’s already considerable catalogue.
Review by Hal Sinden